Senior Senate Republican accuses Obama of 'class warfare'

(Reuters) - The Senate's top tax law writer accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of undertaking "class warfare" with his plan to raise taxes on wealthier Americans to help the middle class.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the proposals Obama is expected to set out in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening would violate principles of simplicity and "revenue neutrality" that Hatch said are key to any real tax reform.

"This plan that we'll hear about tonight appears to be more about redistribution, with added complexity, and class warfare, directed at job-creating small businesses, than about tax reform," Hatch said in remarks prepared for delivery in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

He said this was "unfortunate, because we're going to need real leadership from the White House – not just liberal talking points – if tax reform is going to be successful."

Obama, a Democrat, will push a plan to increase taxes by $320 billion over 10 years on the wealthy by closing tax loopholes and imposing a fee on big financial firms. The money would be used to pay for an increase in benefits for the middle class.

Obama's aim is to help those left behind by an economic revival taking hold six years into his tenure, which began with the president facing a crippling financial crisis.

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The plan would need approval from Congress, which is controlled in both chambers by Republicans.

Hatch said he hoped Republicans could get Obama to reverse course, because his ideas would "be particularly damaging, undoing tax policies that have been successful in helping to expand the economy, promote savings, and create jobs."

Hatch, however, said he was working on another priority that he shares with Obama - getting legislation passed to give trade deals a fast track through Congress.

Hatch said he was talking to Senate Democrats as well as lawmakers in the House of Representatives with the goal of introducing a bipartisan, bicameral bill on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

"My plan, therefore, is to move carefully but quickly to mark up (vote in committee on) a TPA bill," he said. Hatch did not give a time frame but said he wanted to introduce a bill "that we can move in short order."

He also urged Obama to be more "forward leaning" in urging members of his own party to support TPA.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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